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3144Re: [mythsoc] Books, no Pullman or Lewis

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  • David S. Bratman
    Mar 6, 2001
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      At 10:03 AM 3/6/2001 , David Lenander wrote:

      >Apropos of nothing that's been discussed here lately (not that I've really
      >kept up lately, being busy with other things and Life), I wanted to
      >recommend a couple of books and commend the critical acumen of David
      >Bratman. I've recently accused David of being too much like Tolkien and
      >hating everything (who said that about JRRT?). So I looked up a couple of
      >books that I recall him recommending and read them in the past couple of
      >weeks.

      You're welcome. I have indeed recommended these books.

      >Oddly, despite my recommendation here, I was rather disappointed in _The
      >Land of Laughs_, by Jonathan Carroll. Only because having started it, and
      >finding it well-written, and remembering the positive comments from David
      >and others, I started expecting a truly Great Book, which it's not.

      I wouldn't have described it as a Great Book. A literary tour de force is
      what I think I said at the time it was published.

      >Some of the premises are
      >similar to other books that have been built around imaginary children's
      >fantasy classics, like last year's MFA finalist, _Dark Cities Underground_,
      >by Lisa Goldstein.

      It's worth remembering that _Land of Laughs_ long predates _Dark Cities
      Underground_, and might even have influenced it. And other books of that
      kind. Also, I got a distinct sense of the style and quality of Carroll's
      imaginary children's fantasy classics. I did not get such a sense of
      Goldstein's.

      Your description which follows (which I'm not quoting here) is a good and
      thoughtful one. What most attracted me to the book was the slow and awful
      (in both senses) unveiling of the fantasy nature of the situation in the
      middle of the book. I don't think a fantasy needs to be all-fantasy to be
      good, and much of _Land of Laughs_ is not. That grounding makes the
      fantasy parts all the more effective.

      The ending is oversold, undertold, and frustrating, all at once.

      >The other book, which I think maybe Berni also recommended, was the
      >aforementioned Lisa Goldstein's _A Mask for the General_. This is a lovely
      >and sensitive portrayal of people

      Good description.

      >living under a dictatorship that in its
      >focus on interactions of characters never gives up anything in treating Big
      >Ideas, without (I think) ever preaching. It is not as brilliant or
      >magnificent as Pat Murphy's _The City, Not Long After_, which it
      >resembles in a number of respects, but it may actually be more artistically
      >complete and perfect.

      Apologies if I've mentioned this before, but both the Goldstein and the
      Murphy are part of an unusual three-author trilogy, of which the third book
      is _Vanishing Point_ by Michaela Roessner. All three books are set in the
      Bay Area, and all are about communities of artists who grow up in the ruins
      of fallen modern civilization. But they have no connection in plot or
      characters. (Civilization falls differently in each book.) They're all
      really fine novels, the author's best in each case. They all exist
      somewhere between fantasy and science-fiction: Roessner's is perhaps the
      closest to sf.

      David Bratman
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